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Crawford votes to oust Cheney; Hill, Westerman won't say

by Frank E. Lockwood | May 13, 2021 at 6:55 a.m.
From left: U.S. Reps. Rick Crawford, French Hill, Bruce Westerman and Steve Womack.

WASHINGTON -- In a meeting with other members of the House Republican Conference, U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford of Jonesboro voted Wednesday to remove the organization's chairwoman, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming.

U.S. Rep. French Hill of Little Rock and U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman of Hot Springs were also on hand as her fate was debated.

Afterward, neither would discuss how they had voted.

U.S. Rep. Steve Womack of Rogers missed the gathering due to a scheduling conflict. He was meeting with representatives of the United States Special Operations Command, his spokeswoman said.

As conference chair, Cheney had campaigned for Hill in October, traveling to Arkansas during the final days of the 2020 congressional race.

Hill, she had said at the time, is "influential enough and enough of a leader" that people pay attention to what he says.

A decade earlier, with the 2010 elections looming, she had campaigned for Republicans in Northwest Arkansas, including Womack, the party's nominee for Congress.

Unlike Hill, Womack and the rest of the Arkansas congressional delegation, Cheney voted to impeach then-President Donald Trump days after the Jan. 6 insurrection.

In February, with her foes attempting to dislodge her from leadership, Hill and Womack had given her their unambiguous support.

This time, they opted not to vigorously defend her, at least publicly.

Wednesday's vote was by voice vote. There was no roll call or formal tally.

Afterward, the Republican members from Arkansas and elsewhere emphasized that they needed to focus on President Joe Biden, his policies and the upcoming elections.

In a written statement, Hill praised Cheney while acknowledging the mood of the conference.

"Liz Cheney is one of the most conservative, constitutionally minded people I know and that's why I voiced my support for her today. But to lead House Republicans as we take back the majority in the House in 2022 and work to stop Biden's far-left agenda she needs to have the confidence of the majority of House Republicans, and today, that proved not to the be the case," he said.

Both Westerman and Cheney serve on the House Natural Resources Committee and have worked together on environmental matters. In March, they had toured a coal mine together outside Gillette, Wyo., pausing to meet with energy stakeholders.

In a written statement, Westerman encouraged his party to focus on current problems, not past disputes.

"The House Republican Conference made the decision today to focus on the issues facing the American people and combat the harmful policies of the Biden Administration. It is time to move forward as a united Republican party, dedicated to fighting for the rights and freedoms of the American people," he said.

In a written statement, Womack said the outcome of Wednesday's vote "was not unexpected."

"She is a close friend and colleague, and she has very strong opinions about the 2020 election and the January 6th insurrection. Unfortunately, her views as Conference Chairwoman clashed with other rank-and-file members. I regret the intraparty conflict," he said. "I believe our conference needs to refocus our attention on stopping the dangerous policies being advanced by the left that are hurting our economy, compromising national security, and making life difficult on American families and business."

In a written statement, Crawford portrayed the change in leadership as appropriate.

Unlike Cheney, Crawford and Westerman had supported an unsuccessful Texas lawsuit challenging the election results in four states carried by Biden. Crawford had also objected, on Jan. 6, to the certified election returns from Arizona and Pennsylvania.

Cheney's ouster, Crawford suggested, would place the party on a better path.

"Our nation faces serious challenges, including rising inflation, a crisis on our southern border, economic struggles in our heartland, and renewed conflict in the Mideast. Today, the House Republican Conference decided a course correction was needed to help us communicate more effectively how to address these challenges, and to block the extreme socialist agenda the Democrats are trying to force upon the American people," he said.

"I have great respect for Rep. Cheney and look forward to continuing to work with her to advance our shared interest in a secure and prosperous America," he added.

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